By Max Stewart
In the wake of July 4th weekend, on what marked the 50th Anniversary of the 1970 Atlanta International Pop Festival, let’s take some time to celebrate a monumental moment in live music history (in a year that will always be known as a sad standstill for live shows). Although Woodstock will forever be remembered as the large-scale musical event at the center of the counterculture revolution of the Sixties, the first installment of the Atlanta International Pop Festival in 1929 was actually a month and a half before Woodstock. But, hey, who’s counting.
The original Atlanta Pop Fest took place at the Atlanta International Raceway in Hampton, Georgia on July 4-5, 1969. Thanks to the legendary Atlanta promoter, Alex Cooley, over 100,000 people descended on a town about 30 miles south of Atlanta to see Led Zeppelin, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Staple Singers, Joe Cocker, Janis Joplin, Canned Heat, Booker T. and the M.G.’s, Grand Funk Railroad, and many more. The following year, also on July 4th weekend, more than 300,000 people gathered in Byron, Georgia for the follow-up festival over three days to watch Allman Brothers Band, B.B. King, Col. Bruce Hampton’s Hampton Grease Band, Terry Reid, Bob Seger System and The Jimi Hendrix Experience (the festival was Hendrix’s largest ever U.S. audience). Suffice it to say, these were two insanely stacked lineups with iconic musicians that will continue to inspire for years to come.
Last December at Atlanta’s Variety Playhouse, the legacy and preservation of these historic festivals were given a proper tribute. Dubbed “Atlanta Pop: Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Atlanta International Pop Festival,” the concert featured a revolving cast of superb musical talent. The ‘house band’ for the show included a debut performance from the Atlanta-based supergroup, The Hues of Miriam, all of whom played with the legendary Col. Bruce Hampton: Matt Slocum (Aquarium Rescue Unit, Railroad Earth), Jacob Deaton (Col. Bruce Hampton), Nick Johnson (Randall Bramblett), Kevin Scott (Jimmy Herring, John McLaughlin), Darren Stanley (Jimmy Herring), and Duane Trucks (Widespread Panic).
The show itself perfectly captured the cathartic and musically diverse energy of the festival, with moments of splintering blues, earth-shaking soul, twangy rock, and everything in between. The song selection was a well-balanced mix of tunes from the catalogs of artists that played the original 1969 and 1970 events, as detailed below. The Hues of Miriam had a constant stream of top tier sit-ins throughout the evening: Charlie Starr (Blackberry Smoke), Jennifer Hartswick (Trey Anastasio Band), Jeff Mosier, Joey Sommerville (Phish, Col. Bruce Hampton), Denny Walley (Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart), T. Hardy Morris, Sven Pipien (Magpie Salute, The Black Crowes), Brandon “Taz” Niederauer, Cody Matlock, Cicada Rhythm, Thomas Johnson, Carter King, and Daniel Womack from Futurebirds, & others.
Don’t take my word for it though. Do yourself a favor during this unprecedented time in music and give this show a listen in the Soundcloud link listed below and check out our full gallery below. Let’s hope we get this kind of live music magic again before too long. Lord knows we need it.
Atlanta Pop Festival Celebration Setlist (12/09/19):
“Star Spangled Banner” – The Jimi Hendrix Experience (Taz)
“Chicken Pox” – Booker T. & the M.G.’s (Hues Of Miriam)
“Aint It Funky Now – James Brown (Cody Matlock)
“How Blue Can You Get?” – B.B. King (Cody Matlock)
“Lookin For A Home” – Al Kooper, Shuggie Otis (Futurebirds)
“Lodi” – Creedence Clearwater Revival (Futurebirds)
“On The Road Again” – Canned Heat (Cicada Rhythm)
“Midnight Rider” – Cicada Rhythm (Cicada Rhythm)
“Long Road Ahead” – Delaney & Bonnie (Charlie Starr)
“Your Time Is Gonna Come” – Led Zeppelin (Charlie Starr)
“Never Make A Move Too Soon” – B.B. King (Jenn Hartswick)
“Voodoo Chile” – Jimi Hendrix (Taz)
“Halifax” – Hampton Grease Band (Kevin Scott)
“Uncloudy Day” – Staple Singers (Jeff Mosier)
“Sweet Home Chicago” – Blues Standard, B.B. King (Denny Walley)
“Little Red Rooster” (Denny Walley)
“Mean Mistreater” – Grand Funk Railroad (Cody Matlock)
“I’m Glad” – Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band (Hardy Morris)
“Zig Zag Wanderer” – Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band (Hardy Morris)
“Don’t Keep Me Wonderin'” – The Allman Brothers Band (Taz)
“Respect Yourself” – The Staples Singers (Jenn Hartswick)
“Piece Of My Heart” – Janis Jopin (Jenn Hartswick)
“Like A Rolling Stone”
While listening, check out some photos from the event below!